Could we finally see civilian oversight of the Chicago Police Department?
Organizers have been pushing for oversight for years, and now there’s a new ordinance in City Council that would make that a reality. The so-called Community Commission for Public Safety would have the power to review changes to police department policy. The group would not have the final say on CPD policy, and would not be able to fire the police superintendent.
Timing is key: Mayor Emanuel will only be in office until mid-May, so it could be now or never for an oversight plan that has been years in the making.
Mecole Jordan with GAPA, the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability, the group behind this ordinance, joins the Morning Shift to talk more about what civilian oversight of the police might look like.
What a Community Commission might look like
Mecole Jordan: The way that it looks now is that the police could draft a policy, they would give it to the Community Commission to review, [the Commission] would discuss it, make sure there’s no unintended consequences, and then it goes over to the City Council for final approval. And so this makes for a more well-rounded and more all-inclusive approach to making sure that we’re doing policy the right way on such an important issue….
Jenn White: The original plan from last year called for a seven-person panel. This ordinance expands that to nine people. Why the change there?
Jordan: We wanted to make sure we left space, and make sure we put positions for two youths on the Commission. And that was important to us because, as we see in Chicago, a lot of times it is the 18-to-24-year-old group that is often left out of these kinds of decisions, but are directly impacted. Particularly in communities of color and marginalized communities, you have youth who have a very real experience of what happens as it relates to police accountability, but are never included in the decision-making processes, or even to be able to have a say in how policies are written.
How the mayoral candidates stand on the Commission
Jordan: Originally, before she became a mayoral candidate, we spoke with Lori Lightfoot several times about our ordinance when she was at the Police Board, and so she showed support. She also has said publicly — both Toni Preckwinkle as well as Lori Lightfoot — have both publicly said that they support the ordinance that GAPA has put forth.
If the current City Council doesn’t pass the ordinance, what’s next?
Jordan: We go back to the drawing board, and we say, “OK, with the community, how do we want to proceed?” And we start setting up meetings. I believe that both Toni Preckwinkle as well as Lori Lightfoot are committed to this issue. I pray that it does not get that far, and that we can actually get it done now. But if we have to go that far, I am confident in both of them — in both of their commitments to get this done.
This interview was edited for clarity and brevity by Char Daston. Click play to hear the full conversation.
GUEST: Mecole Jordan, organizer with GAPA, the Grassroots Alliance For Police Accountability
LEARN MORE: Leadership, Partnership And Trust: A Community Plan For A Safer Chicago (GAPA report March 2018)
Report: Fall/Winter 2016 Citywide Community Conversations (GAPA report December 2016)